The Power of an Ordinary Life by Harvey Hook
This book was from my Dad. He got a copy for himself and a copy for me. Two ordinary people, he said, let’s read this together. Well… that didn’t quite happen. I didn’t even pick this book up until November, even though he got it for us as Christmas gifts in 2018. He finished the book about the same time as I did I believe and we chatted briefly about it but probably not as in-depth as originally intended. Regardless, this was a book that I enjoyed and most of my key takeaways will be used in conversations with other people. I know that this book is especially impactful for people who might not be sure of their mission in life or main focus.
There was initially a story about a few individuals and there were three main things that the author shared are common within that story and are shared within the lives of all people who make a difference in the world. I find the third thing to be the most overlooked. People may forgive, and they may be good at it, but we also need to encourage those that we conflicted with to seek spiritual resolution as we did.
Pg. 6, Three things in this remarkable story are common elements in the lives of people who make a difference in the world.
First: The individual redeemed the immediate moment.
Second: The individual developed a relationship.
Third: The individual encouraged the person they had conflict with to seek spiritual restoration.
My college experience at Palm Beach Atlantic University was much the same. With the rise of technology, looking back I’m confident that I could have developed many of those friendships and experiences in different ways but the structure of the university certainly facilitated and encouraged a great deal of those relationships. While I was not impacted greatly by the curriculum, the relationships and interactions I had with various people certainly did impact me.
Pg. 15, After community college, I transferred to the State University of New York at Albany to get a degree in psychology. My time at SUNY was not made memorable by the classes I took or the psychological theories I studied, but by the people I met. Those friendships and experiences shaped me and enlarged my little world.
I have the same desire. I know that God put me on this earth at this time for a reason and I’m committed to not only understanding that reason deeper every day, but also to act on it each and every day and always.
Pg. 17, What took me to Lincoln, Maine, to the White House was not a desire to pursue the halls of power and influence. What took me there was a desire to touch the world around me and serve the world beyond me.
These are great stepping stones. I’m going to branch off and write a piece that takes this a little deeper and displays how these impacted me. I know that people will all have unique responses to these questions and that is the point. We are all destined and called to do different and unique things in these lives of ours but it is our responsibility to seek God deeply so He can reveal to us what He has in store. The twelfth one is one that I live by all the time. I constantly ask myself those questions over and over and over. I do a self-assessment on the regular.
Pg. 25, I believe that God places twelve stepping stones before us as we cross the river of human existence. These are the stones we all encounter, and the questions that lead us to them:
1. Destiny: What happens to me when I die? What is my final fate?
2. Call: What is God saying to me? Is God asking me to do something?
3. Vision: Is it possible to see the future when it isn’t here yet?
4. Purpose: Why do I exist? Why did God place my DNA on planet earth?
5. Mission: What am I supposed to do with my life? What is my assignment?
6. Gifts and Abilities: What do I do well? How did God make me different from everyone else?
7. Core Values and Priorities: What is all-important? What guides my life? What am I willing to die for? What makes life worth living?
8. Strategy: What is my plan for pursuing a significant life?
9. Goals: How do I measure progress? How do I evaluate success?
10. Difference Making: Is my life expressed in redemptive action? Do I restore others to God and to their world?
11. Legacy: What will I leave behind when I’m gone? Will it reflect God?
12. Transformed World: Does my life change others for the better? Will the world be a better place because I passed through?
Wow is our God ever AMAZING. I loved the inclusion of this passage from the Bible. I bolded the few things that most jumped off the page at me. While I did enjoy this whole passage from Deuteronomy and loved reading all of it, there were a few things that spoke to me most as I was reading this book. I’m sure that something different may speak most to you and I would love for you to share what impacted you the most.
Pg. 31, While you are waiting for a message from God that is unique to you, let me offer you another passage from the Bible to encourage you. Listen closely as God speaks:
“What I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it…?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees, and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess…
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” (Deuteronomy 30:11–20).
This was one of my favorite quotes from the entire book. I’ve been on a journey recently, in the past few months, where God has been recentering my life and showing me what success is. Some people have gotten the impression that I care a lot about financial success; I don’t. Financial success is fine, I know that I can be a great steward of all financial blessings that I receive. However, that is not the goal. The goal is to get to heaven and be greeted with God saying to me, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I want to arrive and know that I fulfilled my tasks, my missions, and my purposes. There will always be wealth in the world, if I’m one of the people that God wants to manage it, so be it, I’ll do it and do so to the best of my ability.
Pg. 43, Mrs. Dole said,
“It’s not what I do that matters but what a sovereign God chooses to do through me. God doesn’t want worldly successes. He wants my heart in submission to him. The world is ripe and ready, I believe, for men and women who recognize that they are not immune to the predicaments of the day, men and women who are willing to accept the privilege of serving, and who are ready to see that the providence of God may have brought them to such a time as this.” — Elizabeth Dole
This is such great imagery I was just left in awe. I see this happening in my life. And what about the times where we build an expansion by our own power, be it a person or job, and God demolishes it or removes it just to build something that ends up being better than we could have ever envisioned? God is amazing, I’ll say it again and again.
Pg. 55, God in his grace reaches down to use in the circumstances of our lives, touching us with the joy and tragedy that open the door to our destiny. C.S. Lewis speaks of this through the image of a house being remodeled:
Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on. You knew the jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself.
Some people that I know of have a spot in the woods not far from their backyard, some people have a designated room, some people don’t have a spot. I’m one of the third group. There is not really a place that I “get away from it all” for four hours. I can accomplish a lot in four hours. But, I already spend 10–20 minutes each morning reading the Bible, I can easily fit in four hours at least once a month for starters. I know that by quieting my life and quieting my mind, I will be able to hear God’s still small voice much clearer. Perhaps there’s a spot on Palm Beach Island near the water that I could go to, one of my favorite spots in the city.
Pg. 78, Schedule a time in our calendar (write it down) to “get away from it all” for four hours. Make sure the location will provide uninterrupted time to reflect, listen, and journal your thoughts.
During your time away, write down what you hear. Write down what you think your calling is.
Write down one practical way in which you can act on your calling. Tell one other person what you’re going to do. Go and do it.
This kind of vision, I agree, is absolutely available to everyone. God created all of us and thereby He can reveal and implant great visions within all of us also. I keep coming back to a quote from Mark Batterson that I think of here also.
“If you seek answers you won’t find them, but if you seek God, the answers will find you.” — Mark Batterson
Pg. 81, I define a visionary as one who has the ability to see what is not yet as if it were already present. Visionaries have the ability to see around the bend in the road. I believe that kind of vision is available to everyone.
There were questions for the readers at the end of each chapter and this was the set of questions at the close of one of them. Loved these questions and found them to be so so valuable.
Pg. 134, Reflections:
What is your life’s mission?
What roles do compassion and justice play in your mission?
What role does love play in your mission?
This is important to understand. I challenge everyone who reads this to spend 5–10 minutes and truly reflect and examine and identify what this is for you. Take note of the intuitive response then come back a week later after daily prayer as you converse with God and ask for His guidance.
Pg. 144, What do you see that others miss? What are your abilities?
Arthur F. Miller and Ralph T. Mattson, authors of The Truth About You, offer valuable insights for self-discovery. Their research indicates that five ingredients are found in every person’s makeup:
1. A central, driving motivation
2. A recurring way of operating with others
3. A distinct group of abilities
4. A recurring subject matter
5. Recurring circumstances
Who does God want you to be? I assure you that you were created to be someone incredible, we must unlock that person and uncover who we are at our core. We are all special, unique, talented, God will guide us and speak to us, we need to seek Him and show Him that we are ready. “Those who can be trusted with little will be trusted with much.” Show God you can be trusted with the person that He created you to become. I always strive to remember that God is the master potter and unless we allow Him to mold us in His hands, we will never fully experience the art that He has intended for us to become.
Pg. 159, Maybe God wants you to be the person who cares for the elderly woman or the lonely single that lives unnoticed around the corner or just up the street.
God designed and created you for this day, for this moment. As he reminds each of us, “I have engraved you on the palms of my hands” (Isaiah 49:16). In Hebrews 2:6–8, the author addresses God, asking, “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.”
These passages reveal the source of our hope. We don’t do this alone. What God calls you to do, he equips you to accomplish.
We are REQUIRED to love ourselves. Without loving ourselves most, without fully loving ourselves, how can we ever expect to love others in a full and authentic way?
Pg. 174, But don’t miss what Jesus says there at the end: “Love your neighbor as yourself. “This tells me something exceedingly important for my well-being. It tells me that not only is it okay to love myself, it tells me that it’s… expected.
We ALL have an influence. Some people don’t believe they do, but really, anyone that we interact with can be influenced by us. I love the formula that the author included in this segment of the book. Great influence doesn’t just “happen” it requires a lot and especially to have great influence that is sustainable over time, there are a lot of things that need to happen.
“As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.” — Proverbs 27:19
Pg. 224, In his book Living in the Lions’ Den without Being Eaten, William Carr Peel defines influence as, “the power of capacity to produce desired results, to impact or to cause some change to take place.” Influence changes people from the inside out. Influence changes thoughts, thoughts change behavior, and behavior changes cultures. Peel has a formula: Competence + Character + Courage = Great Influence. When you are doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons, you are exerting a powerful influence.
Pg. 225, John Wesley to William Wilberforce:
“Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils, but if God be for you, who can be against you?”
When we’re quiet and we let God speak to us, it is amazing what can happen. Prayer was never intended to be a one-way conversation, that’s not the way to develop a relationship is it? In Genesis, God was said to walk through the garden with Adam and Eve. They would also chat casually with God, why don’t we do that anymore? Did God change? Or did we? Nonetheless, this is a wonderfully vulnerable story of what Harvey experienced and I’m grateful that it was included within the book for us.
Pg. 229, I had to take a hard look at myself and then ask God what he had to say on the subject:
Thoughts of a Doubting Man
I am nothing
an insignificant man of 36 years
husband of one wife
father of two daughters.
My office overlooks the back of a gray bank building
I share the street with the homeless, the lost, and the depraved.
I am a blink in time
an afterthought in the minds of men
each moving through life
toward his own goals, success, and satisfaction.
I have nothing.
The little I do have, I do not own; it belongs to you.
I search for significance
but I am hounded by doubt.
I strive for success
but continually fall short.
Who I am is not who I want to be…
But I do have a dream
that someday I will be complete in you.
I want to be one of your heroes,
a man of strength, dignity, and vision.
I want to do great things for you
… that will last for eternity.
But once again the dilemma:
I doubt and fear
and have so little to offer you.
All that I have I give to you
it’s not much,
In doing so
my doubting is a doorway to freedom
my significance is found at the cross
my success is found in seeking you.
Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies,
it remains only a single seed.
But if it dies, it produces many seeds…
The man who hates his life in this world
will keep it for eternal life.
Blessed are the humble; yours is the kingdom of God
Blessed are those who mourn; you are comforted
Blessed are the lowly: you have inherited the earth
Blessed are the merciful; you have received mercy
Blessed are the pure in heart; you have seen God
Blessed are the peacemakers; you are a child of God
Blessed are the persecuted; yours is the kingdom of heaven
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; you are complete.
(Matthew 5:3–10, Author’s paraphrase)
Do we have oneness with God? Here are some great great things that we can use as a self-assessment to truly assess and understand our oneness with God at this time. While I believe that it is extremely difficult for any human to be able to do all of these things effectively because of our sinful nature, they are definitely some things that we should be trying our best to do all of these things, Jesus modeled them for us.
Pg. 245, God has “pitched his tent” in us and among us.
Where God is, there is peace, calm, protection, hope, comfort, rest, wholeness, love, and mercy. Are you where God is? Do others see God in you? Does your life attract others who are seeking what you have? We are drawn to God, and the world is drawn to him through us. His dwelling among us is revealed in our oneness.
Our oneness is modeled and released when…
We pursue repentance, not satisfaction
We worship God, not his creation
We seek holiness, not acceptance
We make disciples, not converts
We value life, not convenience
We seek truth, not compliance
We model love, not tolerance
We want less, not more
We seek mercy with justice
We seek God, not only his gifts
We seek significance, not success
We prioritize family, not career
We give without expecting a return
We collaborate without competing
We pursue justice, not self-justification
We speak the truth in love, not just to be loved
We look to the needs of others, not just our own
We live in community and abandon individualism
We embrace biblical orthodoxy, not situational ethics
We embrace economic justice as readily as social justice
We model the law of love instead of the law of retribution
We become the voice of the poor, not of the privileged
We empower people to change; we don’t imprison them with entitlements
We are known for our love one for another
We turn the other cheek
We follow in his steps
We confess our sins
We are the church, now go out and make disciples of the nations. Those are the closing thoughts of the book for me.
Pg. 249, “The holiest moment of the church service is the moment when God’s people — strengthened by preaching and sacrament — go out of the church door into the world to be the Church. We don’t go to church; we are the church.” — Ernest Southcott
This book was great. I liked all of the points and especially valued the self-assessments that were within the book. There are so many things that each of us can do as God’s people to become better and closer to God. While we can never be perfect, striving to be more and more like Jesus is what will enable us to be the best versions of ourselves. God has so much for each of us and it’s up to us to seek God and allow Him to reveal that to each of us. There is POWER in every single ordinary life, because every life truly is ordinary. We are all unique and special and divinely ordained for greatness in our own way, let’s find it.
I gave this book a 3/5